I BECOME A SNAKE-CHARMING DERVISH 255
right hand, and still giving my silent command. The hissing sound came to an end, the hood contracted, the swaying movement grew more languid, and the cobra lost the regal pose which it had hitherto maintained. I doubled die paper, in the form of a gabled roof, and placed it upon the cobra's head. The snake sank down almost at once, so that I had to replace the talisman. Finally, it became quite feeble and lay prone upon the ground, its sinuous body aided like a letter S in the dust.
Thereafter it never moved but remained rigid. Whether it was really asleep, or in a hypnotic trance, or watchfully but helplessly yielding to the "magic** of the talisman, I did not trouble to determine.
Thus ended my first effort at snake-charming.
On a few other occasions, Moussa and I went out on short expeditions to hunt members of the serpent tribe and to bring them back alive. I was unable to detect their whereabouts, but Moussa would collect them from different spots in the desert, or along the less frequented parts of the banks of the Nile, with astonishing celerity. He claimed to be able to smell them and thus track them down; a gift I never acquired, as he said a training of at least a year or two was required, for development into the complete snake-charmer equipped with every professional qualification.
Sometimes the snakes would hiss and even spit at Moussa in their anger when he called them; eventually,, however, they always yielded and came sliding limply into his hands. But upon one occasion there was a mishap.
We had caught a horned viper which had given trouble from the start. When at last we tried to coax it to enter the basket, it apparently mistook a movement which the Sheikh made as one of attack—for some snakes are surprisingly nervous creatures—and hit at him in self-defence. The small mouth dosed upon his right arm in a trice, and he was bitten. Blood streamed down the skin at once. The gushing red fluid increased in flow and I hastily tied a handkerchief around his wound to staunch it, preparatory to taking such further action as he advised. I hoped the Sneikh had made his last will and testament and that some relative would take care of his wife and children.